It's been more than seven months now since Mike and I separated. I haven't dated much in that time, but I have dated a little.
Let me start by saying I hate dating. I always have. I've enjoyed being in relationships, although I'm also enjoying being single now. But I hate dating. Especially first dates. First dates feel a lot like job interviews, only more complicated, because it's like I'm being interviewed and also like I'm interviewing someone else.
The internet has changed the dating process for many people, I think, and it's mostly been a good thing for me. Mike and I met online. Since I don't have a regular job, and I don't go to school, and I don't go to church, and I don't enjoy bars or nightclubs at all, I don't have many opportunities to meet people. Plus, on internet dating sites you can be really clear in your profile about what you're looking for and then you can kind of screen people and try to avoid the idiots as much as possible. Of course, you get messages from all kinds of creepy people online, too. But you can just delete those. It's better than someone creepy hitting on you at a party, I think.
When you have a disability, you have to decide when to tell a potential partner about your disability. If you are blind or use a wheelchair, people are gonna figure that out as soon as they meet you, but if you have PTSD, they won't know until you tell them (or until something happens that freaks them out if they don't know about the PTSD, like have a flashback when you're with them). I don't want to spend a lot of time getting to know and like someone, only to find out that they can't deal with the fact that I have PTSD. I also don't want them to feel like I was not being honest, or somehow "lying by omission," if I'm not up front about. On the other hand, I don't want to scare someone off before they've gotten the chance to know me at all. Plus, I don't think the PTSD is the most important thing about me and I don't want to present it like it is.
It occurred to me recently that, although people can't tell just by looking at me that I have PTSD, it is now summer and it is hot out and I am not going on a first date wearing long sleeves. I've had scars on my arms, and elsewhere, for years and years, but most were pretty faded. After the... what do I call it? The incident? I don't know. The thing last November when I cut myself really badly. I now have numerous scars on both arms that are quite noticeable. I'm sure they will fade more in time, but they are very obvious and anyone I meet will see them right away. If I don't tell them before we meet, I need to be prepared to answer the inevitable question about what happened to my arms.
Then there is the dog. When do I tell people I have a service dog? If I tell them I have a service dog but haven't told them I have a disability, well, they are going to ask why I have a service dog so I need to be prepared to answer questions about my disability. On the other hand, mentioning Isaac can be a good way to lead up to the fact that I have a disability. For instance, if someone mentions their dog (people love to talk about their animals), I can say, "I have a dog, too. He's a yellow lab. He's a trained service dog." Or, if someone I'm chatting with online asks for a picture of me, I can send them a picture of me with Isaac, with Isaac dressed in his service dog vest. I've done that a couple times.
I decided I do need to let people know I have a service dog before I show up for a first date with Isaac in tow. At first I wasn't sure if I should mention it ahead of time or not. Then I decided, what if someone is allergic to dogs? What if they are really scared of dogs for some reason? What if they just don't like dogs? It seems unfair to show up with one without making sure it's OK with them first. Now, if someone said they hated dogs and would never want to be around my service dog, then obviously that relationship would not be going anywhere. But it still seems wise, and fair, to discuss that before I show up at Starbucks with my service dog for a first date (I think Starbucks is the perfect place for a first date, by the way. It's casual, you can make it a short date if you want but you can also hang out and talk for a whole afternoon if you want. And if the date doesn't show up, I still get a latte.).